When I first 'learned' chess, it was just the moves of each piece and then I started playing. I had no plan at all other than just moving pieces and trying to take from my opponent and protecting myself from losing pieces so in a way it was the shortest of short sighted play.

I never thought about the centre of the board or piece development or openings but now, I've seen videos and books etc that talk about these things extensively.

My question: Is it dishonest to start out playing serious chess by learning from books and such instead of coming up with a lot of this stuff independently at first?

To clarify:

I'm concerned that I should have independently realized that the centre of the board is the most important and that certain moves are good because they open the way for other pieces and some moves are bad because they block other pieces etc.

I'm also wondering if I should have independently been able to come up with things like Queen's gambit accepted/declined or the Sicilian defense etc.

I suppose I don't want to cheat myself and I also don't want to 'beat' others by regurgitation.

It's for this same reason I never looked at Rubik's cube algorithms online because I know for a fact that many of these super solvers of the cube just do it by playing around. I won't let myself solve a cube by a recipe.

  • 2
    I have a very hard time understanding why this question was closed. It's clear enough what is being asked, and I have no idea why the question would be difficult to answer given the way it's being phrased.
    – Scounged
    Apr 28, 2021 at 12:28
  • 1
    @Scounged I think it's simply an overzealous admin. I can't think of any other reasonable explanation for their actions.
    – TWalker
    Apr 28, 2021 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


If you compare games of past masters with modern master games you will find that the modern masters are playing at a significantly higher level. This is because modern chess masters are able to draw inspiration from and refine the ideas of the older masters. If they weren't doing this, chess theory would become stagnant and new ideas would be few and far inbetween.

Chess is a very difficult game, and nobody will fault you for trying to improve by reading general chess theory. In fact, most people (myself included) would commend you for studying chess to become a stronger player. If you want to become great at chess you have to become a great student of the craft, as with any artform. Indeed, you will struggle to find a single great artist in the history of mankind who didn't study the work of people that came before them. It's simply a very important aspect of how human beings learn things, and it is what drives society forward.

Don't romanticize/fetischize the idea of reinventing the wheel, it's a fool's errand. If you want to improve, it is not wrong to ask for guidance from people who are better than you (with the caveat that not every good chess player is also a good chess teacher). With knowledge comes confidence, and with confidence comes independence and creativity. This doesn't really depend on whether you discovered the knowledge or if someone gave it to you.

As a final note, positional concepts like central control and piece activity and coordination are far more difficult to come up with than they are to understand (at least superficially) once explained. Just because a concept is easy to understand doesn't mean that it's easy to come up with, so don't feel bad for not coming up with these things on your own. Believe me, while most players know about these concepts only very few players have actually managed to master these concepts completely. And with regards to specific openings: you have absolutely no chance of coming up with these concrete openings on your own! The modern theory of Queen's gambit/Sicilian is the result of centuries of intensive development by the greatest players of their time trying to outfox their competitors by coming up with one creative new idea at the time. Some of these ideas became part of established theory and others fell into obscurity, but every single one of these innovations required a great deal of effort. There is no way a single human being could ever dream of coming up with all these ideas on their own.

  • Thanks for this very thoughtful answer. It helps a lot!
    – TWalker
    Apr 28, 2021 at 12:46
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    Spot on. Just about everything we modern era humans do is based on "standing on the shoulders of giants".
    – Annatar
    Apr 28, 2021 at 13:37

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